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How to Grip the Bar for Pull-ups

We’ve all been there: We walk up to the whiteboard, read what we’re doing that day and in that process read, “pull-ups.” We follow it up with a groan or ask “how many”?! We may be defeated either by the movement itself or the number of repetitions required. This may have even been you back in May when we did “Murph.”

Related: Results: “Automagically”

The pull-up after-all is a great test of upper-body strength as it requires not only a lot of strength to pull your chin over the bar, but a lot of strength just to hang on to the bar in the first place. We could focus on how our basic anatomy or strength-to-weight ratio is holding us back, or even talk about improving our strength. While all those things are involved, it starts with being able to hold on to the bar.

To produce a stronger pull or a more optimal kip, keep your knuckles above the bar.

To produce a stronger pull or a more optimal kip, keep your knuckles above the bar. In other words, point your knuckles to the ceiling. If you can’t see them while you’re hanging, you’re doing it right. If you can  see your knuckles, then you need to get more of the “meaty” part of your palm over the bar.

 

                         

           Knuckles up = “STRONG”                 Knuckles back = “WEAK”

Gripping the bar this way, with your knuckles towards the ceiling, has a couple of advantages that improve control and strength during the pull-up:

  1. It engages your entire hand, wrists, and forearms.

  2. It helps to keep your shoulders active.

Take action! The next time you’re in the gym, try this: simply hang from a pull-up bar with your knuckles towards the ceiling (strong grip) and compare this feeling to having your knuckles facing the wall behind you (weak grip). You may even realize you can get your first pull-up using this new grip or get a Personal Record number of repetitions!

Related: Why We Do “Metcons”

If you want to learn more, be sure to schedule a personal training session with a coach at CrossFit Slipstream today at info@crossfitslipstream.com!

–Bryan Rosen

Coach

Move Well, then Move Often

Many of our recent posts have described our approach and how it differs from other gyms.  This post goes into greater depth on one of those elements and why it is important to us – movement quality.

Related: Stop “Stretching”! Do Mobility Work Instead

One of our mentors at Slipstream is Gray Cook, inventor of the Functional Movement Screen (“FMS”), and a leader in the physical therapy world.  His thinking shapes much of our philosophy.  In particular, we aspire to implement his first movement principle: “move well, then move often.”

Slipstream’s priorities for health and fitness

There is an implied criticism of the sports and fitness industry in that statement.  You join a gym or sign up for a sports league and the first thing you expect to do is move a lot and become more fit.  That’s moving often.  If you skip the “move well” step, you dramatically increase the likelihood of injury, reduce efficiency (making you less competitive), and probably reduce your enjoyment of the activity as well.  It is fun to be good at things, and when we try to do things we are not ready for, it is very discouraging.

If you skip the “move well” step, you dramatically increase the likelihood of injury…

For the fitness industry, the difficulty is that everyone has different movement issues but working one-on-one is prohibitively expensive for all but the select few.  At Slipstream, we offer Cook’s FMS, which gives you personalized mobility recommendations targeted for your specific issues.  You can follow those recommendations in the gym before and after class and at home with minimal equipment.

Our group classes include techniques to improve your mobility and advice on identifying and correcting specific issues.  We always include mobility work in our cool-down and often include specific mobility work in our warm-ups to ensure you are ready for the positions that workout calls for.  This also allows us to determine if something isn’t working for you and to make a substitution that will work better for you that day.

With these methods, you get the workout you want today, while still staying safe and getting the mobility work and knowledge you need to be able to improve your movement quality and take on the difficult challenges life throws at you on a daily basis.

Related: The Slipstream Difference: The Meaning of “Fitness”

To learn more, or to sign up for a Functional Movement Screen, contact me at john@crossfitslipstream.com today!

–John Bryant

Founder & Head Trainer

Member Highlight – Meet Denise

Why did you decide to try CrossFit? 
To find something to do with my husband.  We both tried an intro class and couldn’t finish the workout.  After realizing I am not as healthy as I thought I was, I chose to continue.  Scared and all but still wanted to prove to myself I am still an athlete.

How is having a CrossFit coach changed your workout or fitness results? 
I love having a coach because they totally catch me when I am not going to my full potential.  The friendly encouragement and push to do better is exactly what I needed.

How has doing CrossFit affected your health and/or life? 
Since starting CrossFit in September 2016, I have lost 50 pounds and maintained the loss.  I have more muscle mass and sleep so much better.  I was fortunate enough to start CrossFit when a nutrition challenge started so now working out and making better food choices are a part of my every day life.  A motto I learned was:  the choice is yours – good, better or best.  That works for everything in life.

What is your favorite CrossFit movement? 
100% the Deadlift.  I love all of the powerlifting movements.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about trying CrossFit? 
Time to conquer your fears and go for it.  CrossFit is for everyone. Also, I feel it is time for parent’s to start saying yes to their physical activities instead of waiting for when their children are grown like I did.  It is ok to take one hour a day to improve your health.

Why Do We Do “MetCons”?

CrossFit’s methodology rates metabolic conditioning the second most important piece of an athlete’s development after nutrition.  “Metabolic conditioning” is simply physical training focused on developing the human body’s energy pathways (as opposed to trying to build muscle, for example).  However, the term “metcon,” while originally short for “metabolic conditioning,” has come to mean something more specific than that.

Related: The Slipstream Difference: The Meaning of “Fitness”

“Metcons” are not just “cardio.” They have a shorter duration and an emphasis on power and intensity.  This has been shown to increase speed, cardiovascular health, burn fat, and build muscle while decreasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other metabolic diseases (Jeffery 2012, Gerhart 2013).  Unlike traditional steady-state “cardio” training, metcons vary movements, loads, distances, and time domains.  Metcons may or may not involve rest breaks (All High Intensity Interval Training [“HIIT”] workouts are “metcons,” but not all metcons are interval workouts).  In this way, metcons expand the margins of our experience in the gym, just like life outside of the gym.

What’s not to love?  Well, metcons are hard. Think of a workout like Fran (21-15-9 thrusters and pull-ups). It’s 90 total repetitions and is done in less than five minutes. Yikes!  At Slipstream, we focus on “relative intensity.” As in, relative to your readiness right now, in the gym. This includes your experience level and your current physiological and psychological tolerances.  Did you eat well yesterday, get a good night’s sleep, and feel ready to go hard?  Or were you up all night finishing a work project?  Did you indulge at your neighbor’s bar-b-que?

At Slipstream, we focus on “relative intensity.” As in, relative to your readiness right now, in the gym.

That’s why at Slipstream we consider adjusting the workout for every athlete, every time.  We ensure that what we ask of you is challenging but within your abilities.  Once you’re ready for more difficult movements, for heavier loads or go faster, we’re ready too!  With Slipstream, you are getting all the benefits that metcons bring, and stretching your current limits without breaking them – or yourself!

Related: The Slipstream Difference: “Fitness” and Your Goals

No matter who you work with at Slipstream, your coach will focus on mechanics before intensity. Whether you start in our OnRamp program, do personal training, or join our CrossFit and CrossFit Lite classes, you will always receive a high level of care and attention. We ensure that you keep the right level of relative intensity in every metcon, so you get the most from your workout, every time.

To learn more or discuss your personal goals specifically, schedule a free, no-sweat introduction or contact us at info@crossfitslipstream.com today!

–Bryan Rosen

Coach

Gerhart, Hayden D. 2013. A comparison of Crossfit training to traditional anaerobic resistance training in terms of selected fitness domains representative of overall athletic performance. M.S. Thesis, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Jeffery, Christine. 2012. Crossfit effectiveness on fitness levels and demonstration of successful program objectives. M.S. Thesis, Arkansas State University.

The Slipstream Difference: “Fitness” and Your Goals

One of our recent posts discussed the CrossFit definition of “fitness” and how we interpret it at Slipstream.  Briefly, CrossFit, Inc. defines “fitness” as “increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.”  This is “general physical preparedness” and it contrasts with preparing for specific, known physical challenges.  This post addresses how we develop a program that is right for you.  It starts with being genuinely honest about your answer to this question: “what do you really want?”

“what do you really want?”

The strength of CrossFit’s definition of “fitness” is its’ clarity.  Its’ weakness is that it answers the “what do you really want” question for you: you want increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.  If that is in fact your answer, CrossFit is a perfect match.  If you want to feel a sense of accomplishment in the gym, get exercise, and feel good about doing something for yourself, CrossFit is a perfect match.  But if you want to feel great paddling a weeklong trip in the Boundary Waters, finish your first triathlon, or accomplish some other specific goal, the best program for you may include CrossFit plus additional work, or not involve CrossFit at all.  We can help you make this determination and design a plan that works for you.

Related: The Slipstream Difference: “Functional” Training

Once you have answered this question, we follow Dan John’s procedure for designing a program outlined in his book Can You Go?.  He divides responses into four quadrants based on the number of fitness qualities that need to be developed and the level to which they must be developed:

Within each quadrant, there are particular qualities that an individual may need to work on, except for QI, in which everyone needs to work on everything.  This is where individual assessment matters.  Are you an active athlete, seeking to prepare for competition?  Then we need to identify your relevant weaknesses, shore them up without reducing your relevant strengths, and get you stronger.  Simply want to be fitter, healthier, and happier?  Then we need to improve your body awareness, get you moving well, and then moving heavy things rapidly.  Want to set a new personal record for the 10k?  Then you need to train like QIV, even if you are not “elite”.

Related: Why Personal Training?

Schedule your free, no-sweat introduction today, get to know us, and let us know what fitness means to you.  We’ll let you know how we can help you get from where you are to where you want to be!

—John Bryant

Founder & Head Trainer

Barbell “Cycling”

Linda (aka “Three bars of death”) is coming! Every year, on or about August 20th, Slipstream does the classic CrossFit benchmark workout, “Linda,” which is:

10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps for time of:

  • Deadlifts at 150% of bodyweight

  • Bench presses at bodyweight

  • Squat cleans at 75% of bodyweight

*Or 50% of your 1 repetition maximum, whichever is lower.*

As you can see, the workout combines three moderately loaded barbell exercises with varying demands. The load should allow you to string repetitions together. “Barbell cycling” specifically refers to performing the olympic lifts (cleans, jerks, and snatches) with speed, balance, and efficiency to allow for multiple repetitions with no rest between them.

Related: The Slipstream Difference: Functional Training

So, why cycle a barbell? There are few answers to that question:

First, CrossFit’s definition of functional movements states that “no aspect of functional movements is more important than their capacity to move large loads over long distances, and to do so quickly.  In other words, functional movements produce a high power output.” (Power is the rate of work performed over time: Power = (force*distance)/time). The faster you move a barbell at a given weight, the more power you’re producing.

Second, it can help you with your Olympic weightlifting technique. Sage Bergener, head coach of the Burgener Strength Weightlifting seminar states that “athletes who cycle bars well understand that if they want to be able to move as efficiently as possible…it’s really hard to use you arms rather than your legs….”

Click to see barbell cycling of the snatch. Credit: Voodoo Weightlifting

Third, it can help your mental game. Doing multiple cleans and not letting go of the bar is physically draining but it is very mentally challenging, too. Coming away from cycling a challenging set of cleans can give you the confidence to go heavier or do more reps next time!

Fourth, it is a skill that is useful for participating in competitions. A competition event with lots of repetitions of an olympic movement will be much easier and faster for you when you have experience with barbell cycling.

To cycle or not to cycle? That is the question. Cycling is often reserved for conditioning pieces when weights are lighter, competitions, or benchmark workouts. Heavier weights on the other hand, favor a stricter weightlifting technique–making sure you are set up properly before each rep (e.g., going through the bracing sequence.)

Related: Why Personal Training?

So when we do Linda, or any other high-repetition olympic lift, be reminded of why we cycle and see if you can hold onto the bar for one more rep. You might be surprised by what you can do!  Which is, of course, another reason to do do barbell cycling.

Contact us to learn about adding a personal training session or two to your membership if you’re interested in improving your weightlifting or barbell cycling technique, at info@crossfitslipstream.com!

–Bryan Rosen

Coach and Personal Trainer

Results: Automagically!

“Results in just minutes a day!”

“Melt away belly fat with this simple trick!”

“Party off the pounds!”

The health and fitness industry has always been prone to gimmicky pitches and outright fraudulent claims to bring in revenue.  When fitness is something you “ought to do” rather than something you want to do, there will always be someone willing to claim they can meet your desire for automagic results.  “Automagically” is how many of us really want health and fitness to happen — automatically, with results like magic.  We want it for us, rather than by us.

That environment set us up for success by limiting the number of decisions we needed to make and the willpower we needed to exercise.

At Slipstream, we recognize, and empathize, with the desire to get results automagically.  It is human nature.  Especially for those of us who were members of sports teams growing up, yes we worked hard, but the programming, scheduling, and all that other stuff was done for us.  So all we had to do was show up and work hard.  With our teammates cheering or working right along with us, it didn’t seem like as much work as it would have otherwise.  It wasn’t automagic, but we did the work for ourselves and our team and health and fitness just happened for us along the way.  Not automagically, but a fortunate byproduct of our efforts that were aimed at other goals.  That environment set us up for success by limiting the number of decisions we needed to make and the willpower we needed to exercise.

Related: Why Personal Training?

Our mission at Slipstream is to re-create that environment as much as possible across all of our programs.  Our CrossFit and Lite programs do this directly – you show up and the workout is on the board.  We review or teach the movements, and guide you through the workout.  Everyone starts together and works alongside you.  You show up, follow directions, support your classmates, work hard, and the results happen – almost automagically.  Our specialty group classes – yoga, mobility, endurance – are structured the same way, for the same reasons.

Our personal training programs can be done individually or in small groups, dialing in the workouts to specifically meet your needs and specifications.  This is the shortest route to your fitness goals, and has the same elements – you show up, follow instructions, and work hard, and the results will come.  It’s almost automagic!

Related: The Slipstream Difference: “Functional” Training

Contact us at info@crossfitslipstream.com for a free, no-sweat introduction to see how we can help you set and reach your goals!

—John Bryant

Founder & Head Trainer

Personal Training Highlight – Meet Gulshan!

Why did you decide to try Personal Training at CrossFit Slipstream?
 I have always been a person that has done better with a little push and personal attention. I have certain goals in mind and personal training would help me with strategizing and getting me to where I want to be.
How is having a Personal Trainer changed your workout or fitness results?
I have become very consistent and more disciplined. I feel lighter, energetic; I have been able to lift more than I ever have and my results continue to improve!
How has weightlifting changed your health and/or life?
I have started eating better, friends and colleagues are noticing a positive change in my appearance and my endurance has increased considerably.
What is your favorite movement?
Squats! (Though John is really beginning to crank up the weights!)
What would you say to someone who is thinking about trying a Personal Trainer at CrossFit Slipstream?
If you have goals and are serious about achieving them but don’t know-how, you have to try personal training at CrossFit Slipstream, I have been doing this for over 2 months and training three times a week with John has become an indispensable part of my routine. Make positive change happen, today!

The Slipstream Difference: The Meaning of “Fitness”

It has been 17 years since CrossFit’s founder published the article “What is Fitness?” in the CrossFit Journal.  In it, he defined “fitness” as “increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.”  This definition of fitness was guided by a philosophy shaped by three different elements.  This post reviews these elements, how they create CrossFit’s definition of fitness, and explains how and when our approach is similar or different.

Related: Why Personal Training? To Achieve a Specific Goal

These three elements are at the core of the CrossFit understanding of “fitness.” Together, they define the goal of CrossFit and set the standard by which it wishes to be judged. The elements are:

1) 10 General Physical Skills. These are cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, muscular stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. Your fitness can be determined by your ability to successfully use all of these skills.  A triathlete may have massive endurance, but have very poor strength and agility.  A powerlifter likely has awesome strength and power, but not stamina or agility.  The goal of CrossFit is to maximize performance across all 10.

2)  The “Hopper Model.” The idea behind the hopper model is that you should be prepared for any and every physical task imaginable.  Think bingo hopper, but with physical tasks instead of numbers and letters on the face of the balls. The idea is that you should be able to complete any task that is picked out of the hopper, even ones you’ve never done before!  This means you should be able to adapt to unfamiliar tasks, which is useful in the real world.

3) There are 3 Metabolic Pathways that produce energy in the body.  All 3 are always active, but each has its specialty.  The phosphagenic system is the shortest and most explosive; it dominates for about 10 seconds and produces extremely high power output.  The glycolytic system dominates for up to several minutes and is used in very hard but longer activities such as a 400m sprint.  Finally, the oxidative system will last until you die.  It is used in steady-state and relatively low-power activities such as a marathon.  Note “low power” does not mean “easy.”

Whatever your goal, we will work with you to achieve it.

CrossFit has certainly grown over the past 20 or so years; however, this definition hasn’t changed.  By following this definition, CrossFit has helped 1000s of athletes, including us at Slipstream, to get fitter and has produced some of the fittest people on the planet, as measured by this definition of “fitness.”

Image Credit: CrossFit Impulse

At Slipstream, we believe that this approach produces useful general physical fitness and is a beneficial starting point for everyone.  Even the specialist will perform better after plugging holes in their fitness, which become vulnerabilities under real-world conditions.  Our CrossFit and Lite classes seek to build fitness as CrossFit defines it.  This is why some workouts are long vs. short, some use kettlebells vs. barbells, some have more gymnastics vs. weightlifting, etc. Some focus on skills, others on organic elements.

However, we also encourage you to set and reach specific goals, and pursing fitness as CrossFit defines it might not fit with what you need.  Most often this means additional endurance work, but not necessarily.  Whatever your goal, we will work with you to achieve it.

Related:  The Slipstream Difference: ‘Functional’ Training.

To get started, we recommend a number of paths: First, personal training is a perfect way for us to match our skills with your goals.  Second, you could join our On-ramp program. There you will learn all of the skills that CrossFit promotes and is more cost effective than personal training.  Lastly, be sure to checkout our CrossFit Lite classes! They are great for beginners or more experienced athletes looking to improve their general fitness.

Setup a free intro today or contact us at info@crossfitslipstream.com with any questions you have.

-Bryan Rosen

CrossFit Coach and Personal Trainer

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